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Orange County Register (California)
Orange County's public schools made a decision: Why let the private schools have all the signing day fun?
It used to be that on the first day of a letter of intent signing period the big private schools were the only Orange County high schools to have signing day ceremonies. Private schools long have understood they are competing to attract kids to their campuses. Promoting the success of their athletic programs, including showing how many of their athletes were getting college athletic scholarships, has long been a way for private schools to advertise what they have to offer.
A few years ago county public schools starting waking up. They figured out that they, too, should take advantage of this free publicity afforded by the newspapers, websites and social media.
On Wednesday, the first day of the letter of intent signing period for basketball and many other sports, public and private schools had signing day celebrations in their gyms or at other campus facilities. They flooded Twitter and Instagram with photos of smiling kids, wearing sweatshirts or caps bearing the names of their college destinations, signing the letters or, in many cases, copies of the actual letters that would be emailed or faxed to the colleges and universities.
And they sent their photos and signees lists to us. They know we'll publicize this stuff at very reasonable rates.
Villa Park did not wait until Wednesday's 7:30 a.m. signing celebration to seek the publicity. Villa Park athletic director Tom Fox sent us the list of his school's signees Tuesday.
"We're constantly looking for situations where we can shine a light on what we do here at Villa Park High School," said Fox, who spent the signing ceremony in the school gym maneuvering about to snap as many photos as possible to post later. "We've built a program here so that kids don't have to go around the block, as I say, to another school."
The school "around the block," as Fox says, is Orange Lutheran of the big, bad Trinity League.
"We have everything you need here, athletically and academically, to get kids to the next level," Fox said.
San Clemente is one of the better public schools in Orange County when it comes to promoting its athletic programs. San Clemente football coach Jaime Ortiz is active on Twitter with his #OneTownOneTeam and highlights of former San Clemente quarterback Sam Darnold and every gorgeous beach sunset he can post.
Not far from San Clemente are Trinity League schools JSerra and Santa Margarita. Just up the 5 freeway is Mission Viejo, a public school that is a frequent destination of transferring athletes.
San Clemente athletic director Jon Hamro said, sure, all of the promotion is done with specific goals in mind.
"No. 1, we're trying to keep our kids," Hamro said. "The end game of signing a letter of intent, well, we feel that we can give kids as good of an opportunity for that as they can get at any other school. We want to make sure we're letting people know the great things we do here."
San Clemente, Villa Park, Edison, Capistrano Valley and Mission Viejo were among the first schools who understood how to use signing day for publicity just as Orange County's private schools have been doing for years. On Wednesday, OC Varsity got signing day lists and photos from more schools than ever.
Kids and their parents (especially their parents) are shopping for high schools. The smart high schools saw Wednesday like companies see the Super Bowl - an opportunity for great advertising, but a lot cheaper than a 30-second Super Bowl ad.
"We have to build programs that make us a worthy school of choice," Fox said. "We're competing for kids."
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